1. Dismiss Notice
  2. Download free Tapatalk for iPhone or Tapatalk for Android for your phone and follow the SDN forums with push notifications.
    Dismiss Notice

Question for audiologists: brown/white noise and hearing loss?

Discussion in 'Audiology [ Au.D ]' started by Velocity, Aug 12, 2011.

  1. Velocity

    Velocity Keep it Constant

    Joined:
    Jan 25, 2010
    Messages:
    366
    Likes Received:
    3
    Status:
    Medical Student
    Hi audiologists and audiology students,

    I have a quick question, and the internet hasn't been overly useful in answering it. When I study in cafes, or when people begin to hold conversations in the library, I use headphones (earbuds) and turn on some brown noise (I prefer it to white noise because of the lower pitch - for those who don't know, it's the difference between listening to rain (white noise) and a waterfall (brown noise)). Even at higher volumes the sound isn't loud enough to make my ears ring or hurt, but I've tried to avoid using it at higher volumes. I may listen to it for 50-60 minutes at a time, take a break for a few minutes, and then use it again. Whenever I turn it off or take the headphones off, my ears ring for a few seconds (tinnitus?) and it feels like there's a slight pressure difference.

    While I've found this to be a fantastic way to block out distracting background noise, after a few days it occurred to me that this might be harmful to my sense of hearing. Do any of you have any advice, knowledge, or recommendations about this? Is it safe to keep doing what I'm doing, or should I just invest in a pair of earplugs?

    Thanks!
     
  2. Note: SDN Members do not see this ad.

  3. BigAl

    BigAl Year III... Still Lost
    2+ Year Member

    Joined:
    Mar 6, 2008
    Messages:
    199
    Likes Received:
    0
    Status:
    Rehab Sci Student
    I've studied before with white modulated noise, at about half the volume on an ipod. What you consider high, and what I consider high can be different. The only way to truly find out is to test it with a sound level meter, but really who's gonna go through that trouble. If you are using an ipod try it at half the volume, you don't need to have it very high or high. Investing in ear plugs ($3) can't hurt, but most only attenuate about 20-28 dB. My suggestions would be to look into noise canceling headphones.
     
  4. cidanu

    5+ Year Member

    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2009
    Messages:
    345
    Likes Received:
    0
    Status:
    Rehab Sci Student
    your report of tinnitus would concern me and based on that i would suggest turning it down a bit. but you are doing the right thing by taking a break from the noise from time to time.

    occupational guidelines permit an 8-hour work day with 85 dBA of noise. once you get above 85 dBA or longer than 8 hours a day your job would be required to take protective measures. you could still damage your hearing with less exposure to noise so it doesn't mean that lower levels are safe. this is just a guideline for employers.

    to give you a reference a study showed that an iPod set at 60% volume exceeded 85 dBA (Fligor & Ives, 2006)

    you can thank the fact that i'm currently studying for my candidacy exams for this detailed response. :scared:
     
  5. rEliseMe

    2+ Year Member

    Joined:
    May 17, 2010
    Messages:
    507
    Likes Received:
    0
    Status:
    Rehab Sci Student
    Someone suggested earplugs, but you can also get attenuating headphones from Etymotic Research (www.etymotic.com). They are expensive ($80 for the low-range), but they basically do the same thing as noise-cancelling headphones but without needing the huge headphones! Then, you can listen to your noise at a lower volume.

    For the record, I've studied sound environments of cafeterias, restaurants, etc. and they aren't dangerous, but if you listen to 10 dB above, you're in the range of possible danger. Taking a break is a good idea, but turning it down is better. :)
     
  6. Velocity

    Velocity Keep it Constant

    Joined:
    Jan 25, 2010
    Messages:
    366
    Likes Received:
    3
    Status:
    Medical Student
    Thanks all for the advice. I'll stop using the brown noise - at least, with my normal headphones (it's not very effective at lower volumes).

    Regarding noise-canceling headphones, the Etymyotics look like they use passive cancellation. Does anyone have a pair? Do they really work?

    I've looked into a few headphones with active noise cancellation. I like the idea of it, but based off of what I've read, active noise cancellation is really only useful when there's a fairly constant sound in the background (the stereotypical example being the constant hum you hear on an airplane). Supposedly it's not so great at knocking out things like conversations. Any thoughts?

    And again, I appreciate you all sharing your expertise! (Cidanu, good luck on your exams!)
     
  7. rEliseMe

    2+ Year Member

    Joined:
    May 17, 2010
    Messages:
    507
    Likes Received:
    0
    Status:
    Rehab Sci Student
    I don't have a pair, but if I had an extra 80 dollars, I would totally buy them. They block out noise by blocking the ear canal. It's like earplugs and headphones in the same device.
     
  8. cidanu

    5+ Year Member

    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2009
    Messages:
    345
    Likes Received:
    0
    Status:
    Rehab Sci Student
    other options on that note would be to get custom earplugs or custom earmolds that you can put your earbuds into. that would require going to an audiologist who would make molds of your ears then send them out to a manufacturer to make headphones that fit your ear perfectly, effectively blocking out other sounds. it would look something like this: http://www.savehearing.com/photos/Ear%20molds/earmolds_2.jpg
     
  9. DrAudio

    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2010
    Messages:
    51
    Likes Received:
    0
    Status:
    Non-Student
    For ****s and giggles go into the audiology department and ask them to measure the volume of your headphones using a probe tube at your TM. Just a quick fun little thing to do and may give you a surprising perspective on the potential damage real world every day environments can cause.

    With everything in my experience, passive is better. The results may be slightly better with active systems when they work, but they invariably break and are more complicated to fix when they do. This goes for induction systems in cars, cooling systems in computers, x-overs in stereo's, and all the other junk that I've played with and/or built over the years.

    You are correct in that active noise cancellation relies on steady state noise in order to cancel it out.

    The only thing I'd like out of my etymotics is a little bit of additional bass response depending on what the music content is. But for filtered noise they would certainly be sufficient. And in etymotics defense, if I moved to a custom ear mold the bass response would likely be better anyway.

    -D
     
  10. cmc271

    5+ Year Member

    Joined:
    Apr 1, 2009
    Messages:
    188
    Likes Received:
    1
    Status:
    Rehab Sci Student
    One of my classmates has a pair etymotics and he swears by them.
     
  11. Velocity

    Velocity Keep it Constant

    Joined:
    Jan 25, 2010
    Messages:
    366
    Likes Received:
    3
    Status:
    Medical Student
    I ended up going with a pair of headphones with active noise cancellation (Nokia BH-905i). I'm really impressed with them. They block out low-pitch sounds really well (barking of large dogs, the hum of a lot of machinery, much of the sounds of tractors/lawnmowers), but don't effectively cancel out higher-pitched sounds. When I use them in a coffee shop, for example, they generally block out the hum of conversations around me and block a lot of the shop's music, but the treble aspect of the music still gets through. This makes the music sound more distant.

    Since I'm listening to piano music or ambience in these tests, my own music doesn't provide much help in blocking external noises from my attention. When I take breaks and listen to "regular" music, much of the external sounds are blocked completely even without requiring me to raise the volume of my own music to very high levels.

    My only complaint is that in very noisy environments and/or after using the headphones for a long time, it feels like my ears are having pressure exerted on them. It's not a painful sensation, but it feels weird. It's due to the active noise cancellation.

    The etymotics are probably the way to go for truly blocking out almost everything. Being able to form a seal around the ear will beat out other forms of noise cancellation. I just wasn't sure that I'd be able to deal with having something inserted into my ear canal like that for long periods of time.
     
  12. cmc271

    5+ Year Member

    Joined:
    Apr 1, 2009
    Messages:
    188
    Likes Received:
    1
    Status:
    Rehab Sci Student
    It adds a little to the cost, but you can get custom tips made for the etmymotics instead of the just the rubber ones it comes with, my classmate that I mentioned earlier is getting that done for the pair he has had for about a year. A custom product should greatly increase comfort.
     

Share This Page